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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Struck Down, Deployed

‘We are struck down but not destroyed, always carrying around in the body the death of Jesus that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’
(2Cor 4: 9b, 10)

As our fast continues, I am especially grateful for the parents of strugglers who are becoming prayer warriors. I believe that the mightiest members of God’s healing army today are mothers and fathers whose children have ‘come out’ as LGBT+. Struck down by unintentional acts of domestic violence, these parents—facedown–discover Jesus for themselves.

Another’s wound and rebellion wakes them up. At last. The God of their childhood becomes Savior and Lord for them now. He gives them a share in His heart for the broken in need of His body. They will change the face of the Church.

I met Teri at an Encourage meeting. She was distraught and nearly hopeless about her daughter who claimed to be transitioning into a ‘son.’ At that point, her goal was to amass info about ‘transgender’ realities. She learned in the next few months that gaining knowledge was her way of controlling the chaos at hand.

When I saw her next at our ‘Open to Life’ seminar, she was remarkably composed. She told me that though she is happy to learn more, she knows what God wants. ‘He wants me. This is more about my conversion than anything else. I am learning how to trust Him as never before.’

Teri followed up that seminar with a small Lenten prayer group we hosted about chastity, what it means to become whole in our gender and sexuality. Several persons attended with apparent gender identity problems. Teri’s divides are not apparent; she looks like the well-heeled and adjusted head of women’s ministry. Yet she was the first to lead out with confession about her issues as a woman and why those issues probably had made life harder for her daughter. What a woman. She goes to the Cross for her own brokenness first. She prays for her daughter out of the mercy she receives from Jesus.

Now I have the privilege of walking with Teri through a Living Waters group. I arrived at my parish early to set up one night and noticed a woman kneeling at the altar beneath the Cross. She was radiant, fragrant with holiness and looked a bit like Mary Mother of God as she united her heart with Jesus. I failed to realize it was Teri until later. No matter; even from a distance, I could discern that this intercessor was in sync with her Savior and destined to move mountains. A sword may have pierced her heart (LK 2:35), but with that same sword, surrendered to Jesus, she will thwart the enemy’s schemes. Thank God for His marvelous plan!

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All Saints Day

Last week, November 1st, the day the Church honors her members on earth and heaven, we buried my son Nick’s second child Elizabeth in a small plot next to her brother Luke. She outlived him by two weeks. Surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses? (Heb. 12:1) Light penetrated our dismal gathering only by faith.

We had lived with her death for three weeks: numb, uncomprehending. Lamenting for Luke two years earlier was easier; this was more of a dull ache. It remains unfathomable. Two parents should not be admitted to the hospital twice to experience life’s greatest miracle only to return home empty-handed. The dance became a dirge. Twice!

Yes Jesus smashed the head of sin and death. But evil still slithers and strikes. Such cruelty is senseless.

Annette and I longed to bear our kids’ burden. That makes sense: we have more cross-bearing experience. Yet their suffering is uniquely theirs. That is our pain: to walk with them, helpless to change anything. We can only come alongside and pray and hope that the snakebite does not destroy something precious in them.

I cannot describe how proud we are of Nick and Meg. They were awesome parents to both Luke and Elizabeth. The decision after Luke’s death to try again took guts. They gave it their all and endured with dignity the indignity of losing Elizabeth. Together. They share a quiet, profound reliance upon each other.

The All Saints Mass reminded me that the communion of saints is as earthy as the soil in which we interred Elizabeth. We may not have answers but we have each other. And we have help from heaven. Later that day I remembered my favorite saints fighting now for our endurance: Bruno, Francis, Faustina, John Paul II, Therese. I am grateful for their battles, their snakebites, the fires they endured for the joy set before them. They help us. I feel little but know that we are surrounded.

‘The help we receive from heaven is like an invisible yet mighty river of life.’
Cardinal Schonborn

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Hollywood-izing Harassment

Count on Hollywood to highlight a real threat to human dignity (sexual assault, power abuse, a la Harvey Weinstein) only to distort its threat to the point of mockery. If Heather Lind’s accusation of 93-year-old George HW Bush’s sexually assaulting her does not provoke an SNL sketch, I’ll never watch it again.

If you recall, actress Lind accused the former president of placing his hand on her bottom as they posed for a large group photo. Wheel-chair bound Bush insists that the position of his hand was the best he could do in light of his lowered seat. Intentional or not, his alleged ‘assault’ seems inflated. Are we ready to describe the brush of a hand (or another body part) against another’s vulnerable area as an ‘assault’, in the same category as rape? Ludicrous, of course, but ‘any type of sexual contact that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient’ is how we now define sexual assault.

This from an industry that rewards feminine sex appeal above all else. Yes there are bad powerbrokers. And yes there are scads of beautiful women who contribute to this exploitation by consenting to a host of vulgar scenarios. Kate Winslet who can hardly keep her clothes on in film self-righteously noted that she did not thank Harvey Weinstein when she won an Oscar for a film he produced. How noble. Another actress now accuses director Oliver Stone of touching her breasts; the only film footage that played in the background as she cried on cue was of her ample breasts displayed for a vulgar/comic moment on a sitcom. Enough said.

In spite of some women’s mixed messages, nothing warrants or excuses sexual assault. I would add to that: wise up and take responsibility. Mayim Bialik wrote a funny, smart essay on ‘Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World’ in which she implores young actresses to invest more in brainpower than bra power. (NY Times op-ed Oct. 13, ’17) Bailik was dissed for collaborating with the enemy. It reminds me of ‘gay’ activists who in the eighties decried HIV-related discrimination while they actively spread the disease by refusing to play it ‘safe.’

Miss Lind, I urge you use your ‘power’ to remove the misplaced hand from your behind. Assume that a 93-year-old unwell man is innocent before declaring him guilty. For the sake of justice, stay off social media. We make heroes felons through virtual kangaroo courts. Let’s also acquire language that allows us to distinguish between ‘brushes’ with another’s sexual intention and actual sexual violation. If everyone has been sexually assaulted, has anyone? We serve justice to those impacted by life-threatening coercion when we calibrate our language and discern proper forums for addressing sexual assault.

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Why Feast?

Fasting is about solidarity with those who suffer; in our self-emptying, we cry out for Jesus to restore them. He suffered; He now lives to heal the grieving. Thank you for praying alongside of us at DSM/LW as we get low to raise up an army of wounded healers—like Jesus, risen, ours wounds yet visible (JN 20:27; Rev. 5:6).

In the fight, glorious occasions arise that invite us out of the fast and into feasting. I announce to you the birth of my third grandchild, Jacob Andrew Comiskey, born on the Feast of St. Luke, October 18th to my youngest son Sam and wife Chelsea.

The day was as clear and bright as both parents. Annette and I took turns visiting them in the early hours of labor then waited at home. Sam texted that Chelsea was dilating fast: we raced to the hospital and breathlessly entered the delivery room (whether we should have or not) just in time to hear Jacob’s first cry, and to witness his first embrace on Chelsea’s breast. Glorious.

The nurses chased us out of the room where we and Chelsea’s fine parents waited for a few hours until we could spend time with Jacob. I considered how fitting this Feast Day was. St. Luke’s is the Gospel most inclined to expressions of extravagant mercy, from the Prodigal son turning slightly toward the Father who raced to embrace (and so cover) his son’s nakedness (LK 15), the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair under the scowl of the Pharisee (LK 7), the gardener who implored the landowner to give him time to make the barren tree fruitful (LK 13). Luke’s stories guide Sam’s story—the God who gave all to bring his wandering kid home. Sam’s Father fought for his fruitfulness.

Sam is a man of mercy because He lives in that merciful flow (JN 19: 34). He releases others through his generous self-giving, and most notably Chelsea. As we watched them marvel over their Jacob, I thought of how the Father blessed Jacob in Scripture with the dream—a stairway to heaven on which angels rose and fell—after which Jacob made his stone pillow an anointed pillar that signaled an open heaven, a portal to the divine on earth (Genesis 28).

As I witnessed Jacob surrounded by love on all sides, heaven opened. I experienced pure joy, as true as pure grief, only better, able to surpass suffering and turn the sorrowful into worshippers once more (IS 61:3). Fasting, we feast.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

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Wildfire

As flames sear the West Coast, so the Hollywood community skewers one of its ‘gods’ (Meryl Streep referred to Weinstein as one in accepting an award for a picture he produced) for sexual misconduct of the most lurid order. Anyone with an IPhone knows that Harvey Weinstein—movie mogul responsible for highly honored films—used his position to misuse dozens of women. Most women were twenty-something beauties on their way up. Weinstein apparently could not be stopped. His lust leapt out of the casting office and onto female reporters who are now reporting the truth.

I hope the exposure of his power abuse will restrain the gods of Hollywood. Remarkable are the weird responses to his unraveling. Especially his ‘friends.’ We are talking here about a tightly knit network of actors and staff and lawyers and politicians who knew what was happening (come on, the man exposed himself constantly to pretty women, and had eight out-of-court harassment settlements) and turned a blind eye. That Streep—the most respected advocate for women in the industry and a frequent collaborator with Weinstein—claims she did not know of his abuses rings false to me. One can know and choose not to know.

Why the silence? Since the movies became an American institution in the 1920’s, Hollywood has been off-limits for most kinds of sexual restraint. Lusty players created a moral fault-line on which the industry developed. Early studio heads did damage control constantly for reckless actors (of both sexes) while behind the scenes, these gatekeepers advanced appealing ones in exchange for sexual favors. Such trade still flourishes (both homosexually and heterosexually) under some power brokers: ‘Give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want.’ Too many aspirants perpetuate the system by exchanging their dignity for a shot at stardom.

To expose Weinstein is to challenge one of Hollywood’s central tenets: sexual lust masking as liberty. Of all kinds. When does consensual sex become abusive? Where does one cry foul? On the fifth marriage? Once the affair ends after filming? The next arrest for procuring prostitutes? Boundary-breaking films featuring underage sex (Watch for upcoming ‘Call Me by My Name’)?

Perhaps the silence—or feigned shock– of some players toward Weinstein’s exposure is based on their own compromises—maybe not as monstrous as Weinstein’s but still stinking of strange flesh. One dares not judge lest (s)he be judged. Complicity is empowered by one’s own little monsters.

Some good feminists claim that Weinstein’s mess will provoke Hollywood’s repentance. Cleansing this system may take a little more. Yes, abuse of power must end. And yes, one must sort out all the vain liberties Hollywood celebrates. Sexism is not the only villain. All sins against chastity are; only those players who confess these sins face down before their Author and Redeemer will finish well.

Only one foundation stands through the fire. Pray that Weinstein (and all his friends who now throw stones at him) fall on the Rock. While the Weinstein story was breaking, I was rereading Pope Francis’ excellent encyclical, ‘The Joy of Love.’ I close with these excerpts: ‘God Himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures. If this gift needs to be cultivated and directed, it is to prevent the impoverishment of an authentic value (150)…On the basis of this healthy vision of sexuality, we can approach the subject with a healthy realism. Sex often becomes depersonalized and unhealthy, an occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. In our day, sexuality risks being poisoned by the mentality of use and discard…Can we really ignore or overlook the continuing forms of domination, arrogance, abuse, sexual perversion and violence that are the product of a warped understanding of sexuality?’(153)

Hollywood can no longer.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

Download the Prayer Guide Below:

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